Ok, let me start off by saying I’m a big fan of wildly speculative work that pushes the boundaries of thought and expands the thinking of our urban spaces and landscapes. That said, I’m started to chafe at the preponderance of overwrought schemes flown about under the guise of skyscraper or vertical farming (previously discussed here, here, and here). It seems as a fashion du jour, anything goes both stylistically and fantastically, and has recently spawned a new species – the Dragonfly – by Vincent Callebaut Architects which if you’ve been hibernating, or out working in the garden like myself, you’ve spotted on no fewer than a dozen blogs in the last couple of weeks. So here’s my half-hearted rant against the inevitable (given with a grain of salt, or maybe a sprinkle of slow-release organic fertilizer).
:: image via Inhabitat
Ok, maybe it’s not fair, but I despise this building… for starters, it’s ugly as hell (even for a future new york). Second, it’s derivative biomimicry hidden behind flashy graphics and some equally derivative text: Some of the derivation, via Arch Daily: “The metal and glass wings, directly inspired by the exoskeleton of a dragonfly, house the plant and animal farms. Due to the appropriate sun and wind conditions within these wings, proper soil nutrient levels can be achieved to maximize plant growth. Exterior vertical gardens filter rain water, and once that water is mixed with domestic liquid waste, both are treated organically in order to be reused for farming needs.”
:: image via Inhabitat
The building is essentially sci-fi, so is specifically framed as a futuristic technology that I guess the world isn’t quite ready for. Materially, it’s got some cool imagery, specifically the derivatives from Dragonfly biology – although I’m not quite sure how this particular insect is the optimal housing for
:: image via Clean Air Through Green Roofs
:: images via Arch Daily
I think it’s best put on Inhabitat, as a utopian superstructure, which as I mentioned is fine fodder for the vision, but needs a bit of grounding in some form of reality. So there is some valid research that proves, in theory, that the foundations of vertical farming are solid. It seems, to pardon the puns, that we continue to look for a chicken prior to the egg, and firmly put the cart before the horse in the visualization of schemes with little reality to back them up. One good example of this technology in action, even a somewhat homely and utilitarian one, to prove the technology and cost-effectiveness is all I’m asking for.
In response to the Dragonfly and many of the other over-glamourized examples, I offer some reality (let’s call it literally grounded) from Vulgare, by artist Helmut Dick, for an installation entitled ‘Lettuce Field as Big as a Skyscraper Building’: “10,000 lettuces were grown right beside a sky scraper, on a 1200m² field which is as big as the façade of the building. After a growing period of 5 weeks the salad heads were ready for harvest. These were given to the local inhabitants during the one week harvest period.” Call it the anti-vertical farm…
:: images via Vulgare